Tour Stop 5: Viniard Field
As Longstreet’s wing burst forward to north, the Viniard Field remained quiet, having seen the heaviest fighting on September 19th, as Confederates of John Bell Hood’s Division tried to seize the Lafayette Road late in the afternoon. Colonel John T. Wilder’s Brigade, located in the tree line to the west, was armed with the Spencer repeating rifles. These seven-shot rifles inflicted extremely heavy casualties on Hood's Division, which was finally repulsed. The field remained a no-man’s land and a scene of horror as dead and wounded of both sides littered the field in a bloody carpet that could be walked on from end to end without ever touching the ground.
Sergeant Benjamin F. McGee ofthe 72nd Indiana Infantry recalled, "Just in our front there are doubtless more killed and wounded than on any other part of the field, for the ground has been desperately contested four times."
Among the fallen was Colonel Hans Christian Heg of the 15the Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, a command made up of Norwegian and Scandinavian immigrants. A stack of cannonballs marks the location where Colonel Heg was mortally wounded late in the fighting. Heg was one of eight brigade commanders killed in the battle.
Chickamauga had the second highest casualties of any battle in the Civil War, falling only behind Gettysburg. In three days of fighting over 16,000 United States soldiers and over 18,000 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. Among the dead was Lieutenant Samuel Donelson, grandson of President Andrew Jackson; Major Sydney Coolidge, a famed astronomer, who discovered the rings of Saturn; and Lieutenant Daniel Huger, the great-grandson of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. The flower of an entire generation fell at Chickamauga. More soldiers died at Chickamauga than the United States lost in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 combined.